Jury orders Ford to pay software company 105 million dollars in trade secrets case

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A federal jury in Detroit ordered Ford Motor Co to pay Versata Software Inc $104.6 million in damages for breaching a 2004 licensing contract and misappropriating trade secrets.

Jurors deliberated over two days before holding Ford liable on Wednesday, following a 15-day trial.

Versata, based in Austin, Texas, said it licensed its automotive software to Ford from 1998 to 2015, helping the automaker’s engineers and marketing agents collaborate on and design vehicles with “seamless real time updates” worldwide.

It said Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford began copying its software after growing weary of paying millions of dollars in annual licensing fees, and in 2014 rejected a “final” offer to license Versata’s major software for $17 million a year.

More than $82.2 million of the jury award was for breach of contract, with the remaining $22.4 million for trade secret misappropriation.

“While we respect the jury’s decision, we believe the facts and the law do not support this outcome,” Ford said in a statement. “Ford will appeal the verdict.”

Versata’s lawyer Dan Webb, a partner at Winston & Strawn, said the jury awarded about 85 per cent of what the company sought, after Ford raised what he characterized as a “phony” defence that it owned Versata’s trade secrets.

“It was a very favourable verdict, and we’re very pleased,” Webb said in an interview on Thursday.

The litigation began in April 2015, when Ford sought a court order that it did not infringe Versata’s intellectual property.

The case is Versata Software Inc et al v Ford Motor Co, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, No. 15-10628.

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